Whenever a character wants to be good (or, perhaps, only appear good), he or she will often resort to public acts of kindness to random strangers. Upon seeing a frail little old lady standing on the side of the road, our "hero" will naturally try to help her get to the other side, usually without asking her if she wanted the help or not. If the character is particularly strong, they will often pick the poor granny up and just carry her across, especially if they are in a hurry.
Usually, this ends with the old lady complaining that she never wanted to cross the street in the first place, but our "hero" has usually rushed off to do some other heroic deed by then. If the old lady is a particularly crabby one, she will usually give her helper a biff with her walking stick or handbag.
This sort of behavior is common among Boy Scouts, or their fictional equivalents.
The straight example of the "helping the old lady across the street" bit has pretty much become a Dead Horse Trope these days, which is why the only examples you'll see in modern media involve the subversion of the old lady never wanting to cross in the first place, or crankily belting the hero with their cane or handbag. It can also be a stock excuse, especially among villainous types who are late.
Compare Puddle-Covering Chivalry.
- One ad for the Boy Scouts parodies this. Two Scouts offer to help an old lady cross a ravine. On a zipline. And she forgot to take her purse with her.
- An old Inland Revenue advert in the United Kingdom featured a man taking the old lady across the street. She then whacks the man and darts back across the street in order to catch the bus she was waiting for.
- In a commercial for Lipton tea, Kermit helps an elderly clone of Animal cross the street on his way to meet Miss Piggy at the movie theater.
- MAD magazine had a series of comics based on this trope. The final one subverted it - the scout ignored the old lady in favor of a young attractive one, and an older scout master had to comfort the poor granny.
- In the Spanish comic books Zipi y Zape, this seems to be the twins' favourite good deed, according to the number of times it appears in the comic.
- In the French comic books Iznogoud, the Caliph encounters an old man who wants to get to the other side of the street. The Caliph helps him, then the old man wants to get back to the starting point because that's now the other side of the street.
- A 1970s issue of Archie's Joke Book had a one-page joke in which Moose carried Miss Beazley, the high school lunch server, across a busy street, ignoring her protests. After they reach the other side, she tells him that she didn't want to cross the street in the first place.
- Nero: Nero does this in "Het Wonderwolkje", because he's acting like a scout and has to perform his good deed for today. It turns out that the old lady didn't want to cross the street in the first place!
- Up: Russell wants to help Carl Frederickson to gain his Assisting The Elderly merit badge. Since Carl is already home, Russell tries narrowing his initial offer to help cross the street to Carl's yard and then to Carl's porch. Carl eventually gets Russell to leave with a Snipe Hunt. Watch the exchange here.
- In Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, Stitch is concerned about his bad behavior and tries to make up for it by helping old ladies cross the street, whether they want to or not.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming: Among other activities Spider Man engages in on a routine patrol is stopping to offer directions to an elderly woman who is lost.
- Lemonade Joe: Parodied when the villainous Horace Badman tries to invoke this trope as a part of his evil scheme. He wants to overcome his nemesis and hero Joe, and as a bonus he plans to seduce Joe's fiancee Winifred. He disguises himself as an old blind man and pretends he can't cross the street. He knows that kind-hearted Wini will offer him her help, and then he could lure her into a saloon and finally kidnap her. It nearly backfires when a cute little girl is quicker than Wini.
Little girl: Sir, I'll help you cross the street.Horace: What? Shoo, you brat! Herod should get you!
- Tough Guys (1986). A Boy Scout tries to help one of the elderly ex-con protagonists across the street. He's not amused, threatens to break the kid's arm, and gets sworn at in response.
- Gender inverted in Amélie, where the titular character helps (i.e. pushes) an old blind man across the street, and all the way to a train station.
- Gender inverted again in the opening musical sequence in The Great Muppet Caper, where a Girl Scout is helping what appears to be a an elderly blind man cross the street. The man turns out to be a jewel thief in disguise.
- Another gender inversion is in The Holiday, when Iris spots Arthur - an elderly man using a walker - at the side of the busy highway; he is uncertain whether he should cross or keep walking on the side where he is. In a variation on the theme, instead of helping him cross the dangerous street, she picks him up with her vehicle and drives him home safely, after which they become good friends.
- Subverted in America (The Book) in a section about campaign propaganda that claimed Caligula's enemies "smeared" his reputation as, well, with such accusations as helping an old lady across the Appian Way.
- In Wyrd Sisters, some Genre Savvy (if not particularly region-savvy) actors keep offering to help the Witches cross the river, even though there isn't one nearby.
- The Odd Couple: During the opening credits montage we see an old lady who is being helped across the street by a scout. Felix approaches them and offers to do it instead. He gets quite insistent; so the granny hits him with her handbag to make him let go, and the scout slugs him too.
- The Russian show Yeralash has at least three cases.
- The Dukes of Hazzard had one episode where Roscoe was up for a "Lawman of the Month" award and did this, believing the old woman to be an undercover judge. She whacked him afterwards, as she didn't want to cross the street.
- Roscoe spends the whole episode trying to make a good impression and at the end, the award winds up going to Cletus.
- In the The Goodies episode Silly Scouting, Graeme and Bill, playing overage boy scouts, are trying to earn a proficiency badge for Helping Old Ladies Cross the Street. A sequence of madcap visual humour ensues, where Graeme is seen chalking a billiard cue and setting up trick shots involving Old Lady Number One with side-spin off the cushions into old Lady Number Two....
- The Man Show parodies this in the first appearance of the "Man Show Boy." He is sent into the streets to do this, but instead offers to help younger women in their 30s, referring to them as old ladies and seeing how they react to being called old. Needless to say, the ladies are not too pleased to be called old.
- The first episode of The Monkees starts with a man on the street interview about city crime. The interviewee says that it's horrible how nobody helps anyone anymore, and that if he were to see crime he'd jump in. Then the Monkees come in, with Davy pretending to be assaulted by the other three. "Won't someone help me? You sir!" The man runs away, then helps an old lady across the street in order to justify his cowardice. Apparently she has a side business of being helped since afterwards he gives her a dollar and she gives him change.
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: In "Guide to Records" the Vice Principal gives Ned examples of how he might change his large behavior record. One of them is helping an old lady cross the street. He does this by helping an elderly teacher cross a crowded hallway intersection.
- In the "Big Time Scandal" episode of Big Time Rush After both Logan and Carlos have accidental issues with old women, Kelly, Logan, and Carlos hatch a plan to have them help an old lady cross the street, that "old lady" being Gustavo in granny clothes and a wig.
- Robbie Rotten (poorly-disguised as a Boys Scouts leader) is asked by the kids whether they'll learn how to earn badges, such as performing this trope. Robbie then decides to do this to Miss Busybody, who's about to cross the road, and makes her do it several times very quickly until she collapses in the street.
- In another installment, "Robbie's Dream Team," Robbie's disguise of the day is a little old lady crossing the street, in order to lure Sportacus into helping him. After Sportacus does so, he "thanks" him by giving him a sugar apple that knocks Sportacus out cold, allowing the titular dream-team of Robbie lookalikes to drag him to Robbie's lair.
- Done by a villain in Grimm to mask his walking away from a car he's rigged to explode.
- The Mowglis' "San Francisco" has a non-ironic example; it shows the boys doing various good deeds inspiring others to "pass it on". An elderly man with a walker is waiting to cross the street so the band member carries him piggyback while a woman friend brings the walker.
- Conversed and parodied in an arc of FoxTrot where Andy bans Peter from playing violent video games and instead gives him a game called Nice City (as opposed to Vice City). One level has him helping a dozen little old ladies across the street under a time limit, but he keeps failing because, as Jason puts it, "I don't think you're supposed to beat and rob them first."
- In Mongrels Nelson the Fox helps an elderly chicken across the street. He takes the time to also ask the question of "Why did the chicken cross the road?" The answer is: she saw a black man walking along the street and thought he might mug her, turns out she was just a casual racist.
- The manual for Wizardry discusses this as examples for alignments. A good character will help an old lady across the street. A neutral will cross the street and just happen to do so alongside an old lady. An evil character will only accept pay to help an old lady across the street. And the bad guys they fight will help an old lady halfway across the street. It also mentions, when talking about the lack of gender effects on gameplay that 'sometimes a heroine will help a little old man across the street.'
- Parodied in Lego Marvel Superheroes. A side mission has you help a little old lady cross the street by destroying all oncoming cars as she crosses!
- In The Fall, ARID must complete a series of tests for service robots in order to proceed. One of these tests is to assist an old woman across a simulated busy street. The woman is represented by a wooden facade on a track - which is broken and cannot move all the way across. The solution is to let the "woman" get hit by a car, breaking the facade at its base, and carrying "her" the rest of the way.
- The Simpsons: In Treehouse of Horror, episode XI, Homer is dead and needs to do one good deed to get into Heaven. Ghost!Homer sees Agnes Skinner who wants to cross the street, so he lifts her up and flies her across. She is panicked, not knowing that she's being helped by a ghost. She complains that everyone can see up her bustle, and then she starts struggling out of Ghost!Homer's arms and he accidentally drops her into oncoming traffic.
Um, I'm pretty sure she was going to be the next Hitler.
- It's occasionally mentioned that the girls in The Powerpuff Girls do this, but it's not usually shown - it's usually listed as another one of their many good deeds.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- Happens to Mr. Krabs at one point in "Mid-Life Crustacean". The gag is brought back near the end of the episode; the scout walking him into his old room at his mother's house, which amusingly, came right after his mother treated him like a child.
- In "The Abrasive Side", SpongeBob is forced to miss his bus to Glove World several times due to people asking him for favors, one of which is helping his own grandma cross the street.
- In ''Patrick-Man!", Mr. Krabs tries to help an old lady (who is later revealed to be a disguised Dirty Bubble) cross the street, only to leave her to get a dollar.
- Looney Tunes:
- In "People Are Bunny", Daffy Duck goes on a Candid Camera-type show where he tries to help an old lady cross the street. She hits him with her umbrella all the way, saying nobody helps her across the street.
- In "Bugs Bonnets", a truckload of hats spills into the forest where Elmer Fudd is hunting Bugs Bunny, causing the two to change personality when a hat falls on their head. At one point Elmer ends up wearing a bonnet and Bugs a Boy Scout's cap, and Bugs proceeds to help Elmer across the street.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, "The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well": Rainbow Dash feels out-shined by Mare Do Well and, unable to find anyone in need of rescuing, obstinately insists on "helping" Granny Smith cross the street even though she didn't want to cross it at all. Rainbow Dash promptly gets clubbed in the face with Granny's purse.
- Maya & Miguel: During a montage where Miguel tells Maya all the times her ideas have made things worse, one of the clips is her "helping" an old lady across the street. The lady was actually waiting for a bus, and Maya's "help" caused her to miss it.
- The Flintstones has an episode where they and the Rubbles end up camping with a group of Boy Scouts. In one scene, a pair of boys "help" (she didn't need it) walk Betty across the camp. When Betty tells the second boy he already walked her, he tells her she only counts half as much as an old lady.
- In the episode introducing Bamm-Bamm, Barney, wanting to make a good impression on the child authority, paid an old lady ten dollars a day to help her across the street continuously.
- In Tex Avery's Droopy's Good Deed, rival Spike tries to thwart Boy Scout Droopy by dressing in old-lady drag, pulling this trope, and kicking Droopy into the path of a trolley. It backfires, of course.
- In Time Squad Otto suggests to Abraham Lincoln that he should try this instead of being a prankster. But Lincoln has other ideas, when he gives the poor old lady an atomic wedgie and she goes blindly into traffic because of it.
- In The Fairly Oddparents, Timmy imagines doing this when he becomes an adult. When he actually tries this after wishing to be an adult, the old lady pepper sprays him in the eyes and storms away. Cosmo and Wanda proceed to explain, "When a kid helps an old lady cross the street, it's kind of cute. But when an adult does it, it's just plain creepy."
- In another episode where Cosmo had flashbacks of being a fairy scout, he try to help a lady across the street, but halfway through, he let go of her and she got hit by a car.
- Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons:
- Played with in the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Pseudo Sonic". The titular robot helps an Old Lady cross the street deliberately at the wrong time so that she will get run over by a bus. This later comes to bite the real Sonic on the butt as the Old Lady thinks he had her run over and tries to alert the Police to arrest him.
- In the Sonic Boom episode, "Chain Letter", an attempt to get the Old Monkey to be his third friend on FriendSpace, Eggman helps him cross the street. When Eggman asks the Old Monkey to send him a friend request on FriendSpace, the Old Monkey gets confused and Eggman leaves him in the middle of the road, where he gets run over by Dave's car.
- Spoofed in the DuckTales (1987) episode "Yuppy Ducks", when Huey tries walking an old lady across the street to raise back Scrooge's lost money. She pays him for his services, then tells him to take her back across; she didn't want to cross the street.
- In the short, "A Bacon Strip" from the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "The Acme Acres Zone", Hamton is trying to get home so no one will notice that he is naked, and has used graffiti to paint a suit on the frontal half of his skin. On his way home, Granny asks him to help her cross the street, which he reluctantly does. When a car splashes him, it washes the painted suit off and a horrified Granny whacks him with her purse.
- In the The Looney Tunes Show music video, "Be Polite", Mac and Tosh Gopher help Granny cross the street, and halfway across, they sit her down in a chair and massage her feet, undoubtedly holding up the traffic.
- Rocky and Bullwinkle:
- In one episode, Rocky was trying to stop an orbiting rocket carrying Fearless Leader, Boris, wanting to take over, pretended to be an old lady trying to cross the street to stop Rocky. Being a television hero, Rocky knew helping an old lady across the street came before everything else. Ironically, this ended up saving Rocky's life as Fearless Leader was firing a missile at him at that moment.
- In one segment, Bullwinkle did this as a good deed. Not only did he nearly get himself and the old lady run over, but the lady was actually waiting at a bus stop and Bullwinkle made her miss her bus, resulting in him getting whacked by her purse.
- Wander over Yonder: "The Fremergency Fronfract" references this trope verbatim in the lyrics to the song "Hater Makes It Greater", which describes the good deeds done by a punch-drunk Hater post-dental-visit.
Oh, Hater's on the sidewalk helping Granny cross the street!He's in a restaurant pullin' out a lady's seat!
- Attempted as a means to reform Minion with an F in Evil Lobster Claws in Star vs. the Forces of Evil. Unfortunately, Marco and Star have an argument as he's halfway across the street, and by the time they look back (one second) he's somehow destroyed half the town.
- In the "I Feel Good" song from the "Cops and Robots" episode of The Backyardigans, the formerly Bad Bot sings about this being one of the things he wants to do now that he's a Good Bot.
- On the Bob's Burgers episode "Sleeping with the Frenemy", Tina is trying to earn her good citizen Thundergirl badge, but all her attempts at good deeds have failed, including tying to help cranky old Edith cross the street, despite protesting that she's going the other way.
- In the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode, "Say It Isn't Sew", after spending so much time at the Sew N' Sew craft store, Bloo decides to go to the funfair by himself. He disguises himself as a crossing guard and creates a crosswalk to get from the craft store to the fair. Along the way, he helps an elderly lady cross the street, but his progress is soon hindered when he helps Girl Scouts, tourists, children on tricycles, a mother and her baby carriage, and a flock of ducks cross the street, the last of which he helped twice.
- The "Muddy Road" Zen Koan:
Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling. Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection."Come on, girl," said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. "We monks don't go near females," he told Tanzan, "especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?""I left the girl there," said Tanzan. "Are you still carrying her?"